A REAL SUR­PRISE PACK­AGE

CER­ATO S HAS IM­PRES­SIVE FEA­TURES AT A LOW COST

Western Suburbs Weekly - - Driveway - Bill Buys

KIA has the Power to Sur­prise.

It says so in em­bossed let­ter­ing on the faux leather cover of the owner's in­struc­tion man­ual, a pub­li­ca­tion of Bi­b­li­cal pro­por­tions.

But we were driv­ing a Cer­ato S and the in­struc­tion man­ual was for a Sorento. That was quite a sur­prise. We opened the big book any­way, and found it was printed in . . . Rus­sian.

There were sev­eral more sur­prises, but they were all of a rather more pos­i­tive na­ture.

The Cer­ato comes in sev­eral models, but the one we're look­ing at here is the en­try-level model, the S, which you can drive away for just $19,990. That's a sur­prise too. Here's an­other: That price is for the six-speed man­ual, but ask nicely and you can have au­to­matic trans­mis­sion for free.

That said, the man­ual is a de­light­ful gear­box, and it cer­tainly adds plea­sure to the drive.

There are quite a few of the shapely new Cer­atos to choose from – the S, S Pre­mium, Si and SLi – but the base one is a pretty im­pres­sive pack­age and we reckon its the best value.

Stan­dard fare in­cludes de­sir­able items such as 16-inch al­loy wheels, power win­dows, cruise con­trol, a 3.5-inch TFT dis­play, pro­jec­tor head­lights, key­less en­try, and front and rear park­ing sen­sors.

But if you re­ally want a sat­nav sys­tem, auto-on lights, re­vers­ing cam­era and a fancy screen on the dash, you can get it all in a $500 pack.

It's a very at­trac­tive car, look­ing more Euro than Asian with its aero snoot and mean swept­back head­lights with a pair of fog­gies tucked into the lower edge of the grille, and it has ample space for pas­sen­gers plus a de­cent-sized boot.

It has a 385litre ca­pac­ity, but you can whack the 60:40 split rear seats flat to ex­pand it to 657l.

The car is pow­ered by a 112kW/192Nm 2.0litre, four­cylin­der petrol en­gine that gives it good per­for­mance and econ­omy. Zero to 100km/h takes about 8.0sec­onds and we recorded an av­er­age 7.0litres/ 100km on our usual test route.

Kia has long been a ma­jor client of sus­pen­sion guru Graeme Gam­bold, who op­er­ates from a se­cret lo­ca­tion in New Zealand, and the Cer­atos for our mar­ket have a stiffer but still com­pli­ant set-up tuned for Aus­tralian roads, plus a quicker steer­ing ra­tio. So buy­ers get a fine-han­dling, comfy car that's not only good look­ing, but also great to drive.

Safety gear is also good, with six airbags, and front and rear park­ing sen­sors and a five-star rat­ing. The car also has a bestin-the-busi­ness seven year war­ranty and needs (capped price) ser­vic­ing only ev­ery 12 months or 15,000km.

Ver­dict: A pleas­ant sur­prise. But be sure to check the glove­box when you buy yours to en­sure the owner's man­ual is in a lan­guage you're fa­mil­iar with. Naz­darovya!

Kia's Cer­ato S has film star looks, great en­gi­neer­ing and econ­omy at a sur­pris­ing price.

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